Learning To Breathe Again

Summary: Eleven years after the Second War has ended Harry revisits the events of the night that brought Lord Voldemort's rule to an end and took the life of Ron. Events take their course as they lead Harry to Hermione again. After losing contact with her for eleven years he tries to make things right and together they begin to cope with Ron's passing. Together they learn to breathe again.

a/n: Okay, so yes, I know it's been an extremely long time since I've posted anything, especially this story. I'm so sorry...I don't know what happened along the way but I sincerely plan to keep this story going for as long as I can or it takes me to finish. I'm sorry for the long wait and I thank you for sticking with me…I really appreciate it. Feedback and comments of any kind are always welcomed! Happy reading…. :)

"I could use a fresh beginning too...All of my regrets are nothing new..."

Chapter Three

They sat in silence for a good ten minutes after Harry had closed the door. Hermione's eyes, pink and puffy, glanced around the room darting in any direction but Harry's. Harry cleared his throat and shifted on the couch, looking for anything to preoccupy his thoughts. He glanced around the room, his eyes falling along the pictures that lined the mantel. They're were pictures of her parents, laughing and smiling at each other; pictures of herself, Harry and Ron during their years at Hogwarts, Had they really been that young? Harry examined the picture further, he found himself smiling at Ron's expression, which was a little lost looking between Harry and Hermione, as if he hadn't known the picture was being taken.

Harry's eyes moved along the line of pictures, stopping on one of Ron and Hermione. He could tell that the picture must have been taken in their last year, as Ron had fully grown into his gawky figure. Ron beamed down at Harry as Hermione kissed him on the cheek, his face turned towards hers slightly. They looked so happy together. He had never really noticed that before.

"Harry..." Hermione began slowly, placing her hands into her lap.

Harry's eyes snapped back towards Hermione, she was biting her lower lip. "Yeah?"

"Harry... I'm awfully sorry the way I...er... greeted you... I was just surprised that's all. I wasn't expecting... I didn't really think that I'd have much chance of seeing you again." She said, tucking her now somewhat tame curly hair behind her ears.

"Don't apologize Hermione... I believe I deserved that." Harry said, trying to make light of it.

"Oh no..." Hermione thought for a moment, "Well...maybe some of it." She laughed.

Harry laughed along with her for a moment, as their laughter died away silence took over the room once more. Not really wanting to bring the obvious conversation to the surface quite yet he said, "So, you're a Healer now?"

He eyed her white uniform, which was made complete by the emblem of a bone and wand crossed. "Oh, yes. After Hogwarts I went to a Healer Academy in Dublin for about seven years. I've been working at St. Mungo's ever since."

"Wow, seven years? I didn't realize that it was that... er... intense." Harry replied, scratching his chin, which was accentuated by light black stubble.

"Yeah, they pretty much teach you everything there is to know about Healing... it was a pretty drawn out process. You know, getting qualified and trained, then trained again for your floor. I work on the 4th floor, Spell Damage."

"You know, I never would have pictured you as a Healer.. I always thought that you would be-" Harry fell short realizing how it sounded, he cursed himself.

"Healing is a great profession. You're saving lives everyday. Helping the injured and sick..." Hermione said to convince him or rather to convince herself.

Harry nodded, "No doubt… I didn't mean for it to come out that way..."

Hermione nodded briefly and stood, she walked into an adjoining kitchen. "Would you like some tea Harry?"

"I'm good thanks.." Harry said, running a hand through his hair, which had grown a little longer over the years. He heard her filling the kettle, then placing it on the stove, "Oh what's the bother..."she grumbled as she waved her wand at the kettle. The kettle whistled as Hermione poured the water into a cup and grabbed a tea bag.

She came into the living room dipping the bag in and out of the hot water. She set the cup down on the coffee table and adjusted her uniform. "Harry, you wouldn't mind if I changed would you?"

"Oh, no not at all." Harry said, clearing his throat.

"Thanks, I've been in these clothes all day. They are a little uncomfortable." She laughed as she walked down the narrow hallway and went into a door on her right. "I'll be just a minute..." She called through the door.

Harry rested his head on the back of the couch wondering where the evening would go. His stomach jumped about nervously as he glanced at Ron's picture again. Was he really ready to open up the past again? His eyebrows furrowed as he thought about the possibilities he had. It was bound to come up, no doubt about it. He just didn't realize how soon that would be.

Hermione padded her way into the living room again, she was in an oversized sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants. "Ahh," She sighed, pulling her long hair into a sloppy bun. "I feel so much better. I hope you don't mind." She gestured to her slouchy attire.

Harry smiled at her, "Not at all." He made himself more comfortable as she picked up her cup and began to sip at it, occasionally dipping the bag in and out.

Hermione's voice dipped into a more serious tone, "So, how have you been Harry? It's been a while."

"Yeah, I'd say so." He breathed. "Uh, I've been...okay. Not fully there yet, but..."

Hermione nodded in agreement as she out down her cup. "Yeah, me too. It's been a little rough since…then. It just seems like I've had to put a bigger effort into just living…you know?"

Harry nodded shamefully; he had not been living at all. "Yeah I sort of took a break from it I guess...living..."

Hermione picked at the back of the sofa. "Yeah, it was sort of hard to get it back. I sort of shut down for a few months after. Then I just realized that I had to pull through it. That's when I went to Dublin and found the school. Everything's changed since then."

Harry's eyes looked downward, he felt guilty. She had been strong, she pulled herself back together alone even...and he had closed everyone out. He had stopped living. "I just got a job today, actually... the first one in...Well, just the first one." He laughed bitterly. "At The Leaky Cauldron."

Looking up, she smiled, "That's fantastic Harry, I really mean it."

"Thanks. I uh… I couldn't bear to use my real name though. I put down James Evans." Harry looked up at the ceiling, Since when had he become such a coward?

Hermione touched his hand, patting it. "I understand Harry."

"I don't even understand..." Harry replied, looking at her. "You... you were so brave about it Hermione. You moved on, you lived. I pushed everyone away...I shutdown..."

"Harry..." She said softly.

"It's the truth Hermione. That's all I am, contrary to everyone's belief... I'm nothing but a coward." He felt tears on the brim of his eyes. He held them back, cursing himself for wanting to cry.

"Harry, you are anything but a coward. You've faced so much more in your life than half of us will ever even know of. You saved us all from -"

"But I couldn't save him..." Harry said, his throat felt tight and achy.

Hermione pressed her lips together, and closed her eyes for a moment. "Harry...neither one of us could have saved him...we were all out numbered. It…it was hard enough trying to fight them off... It couldn't have been prevented Harry..."

Harry was silent for a while, he thought about that night. It consumed him, he felt like he was there again. Like he was seventeen, brave and invincible. He shuddered at the thought, how he had learned that very night how vulnerable he really was, how they all were. He looked up at Hermione, he could tell that she was thinking about it too. He slid his hand over to hers and grasped it. She looked into his eyes and squeezed his hand, giving him a watery smile.

He pulled her towards himself and let her head rest upon his shoulder. She was shaking and silently crying as she laid her head onto his shoulder. He sniffed a little as he put his arm around her, squeezing her a little. He pressed his lips to her hair and quietly said, "I'm sorry..." He kept on repeating it until he felt his eyes drooping and his arms slightly losing their grip around her shoulder. She was breathing slowly, he could feel her breathing, in and out... in and out. He closed his eyes and rested his head on the back of the couch. This time he didn't look back up.